The Criminal (1960 film)

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The Criminal
The Criminal film poster.png
Directed by Joseph Losey
Screenplay by Alun Owen
Story by Jimmy Sangster (uncredited)
Produced byJack Greenwood
Starring Stanley Baker
Sam Wanamaker
Grégoire Aslan
Margit Saad
Cinematography Robert Krasker
Edited by Reginald Mills
Music by John Dankworth
Distributed by Anglo-Amalgamated (UK)
Release date
  • October 28, 1960 (1960-10-28)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget£60,000 [1]

The Criminal (released in the United States as The Concrete Jungle) is a 1960 British neo-noir crime film directed by Joseph Losey and starring Stanley Baker, Sam Wanamaker, Grégoire Aslan, Jill Bennett, and Margit Saad. Baker plays Johnny Bannion, a recently-paroled gangster (patterned after Albert Dimes [2] ) who is sent back to prison after robbing a racetrack, with both the authorities and the criminal underworld looking for the money.


Alun Owen wrote the screenplay, from a story by an uncredited Jimmy Sangster. John Dankworth composed the musical score, with a title song sung by Cleo Laine. The ensemble supporting cast features Jill Bennett, Rupert Davies, Laurence Naismith, Patrick Magee and Murray Melvin in his film debut.

The film is noted for its harsh and violent portrayal of prison life which led it to be banned in several countries, including Finland and Ireland.


Johnny Bannion is a career criminal with an entourage of minor criminals and fast girls. After being paroled from a three-year stint in prison, he begins planning his "comeback" - a racetrack heist for £40,000. He successfully plans and executes the robbery with the help of his partner, a well-connected American named Mike Carter (Sam Wanamaker). Unbeknownst to him, the racetrack is owned by another gangster. Word is spread of his responsibility, he's double-crossed by his associates, and he is sent back to prison, where he is a well known figure.

In prison, Italian mob boss Frank Saffron takes him under his wing and secures a move to a different block through claiming to be a Roman Catholic. He tells him the outside world wants their £40,000 back, but is prepared to give favours if he gets a cut. They make their plans whispering to each other during Sunday mass.

The death of an inmate triggers a prison riot. The other prison boss, the Irish O'Hara, is less sympathetic to Bannion. During the riot, Bannion opens the door to let the guards back in and wins favour of the prison governor. He is transferred to a low security prison for his assistance but is booed by fellow inmates as he leaves.

During the transfer, it is revealed that Bannion paid £40,000 for the riot and a "fast car". The car appears and drives the prison van off the road, rescuing Bannion. However, he has been double crossed. He is taken to a narrow boat where the criminals he robbed are waiting, also with his lover Suzanne as security. They flee, but Bannion is hit by a bullet as they escape. They reach a snowy field where Johnny shoots one of his three pursuers before being shot himself. He dies before being able to say where the money is.



Joseph Losey said he was handed a ready-made script. "It was a concoction of all the prison films Hollywood ever made", he said. "Both Stanley Baker and I refused to work until they let us write our own script. Which is what we did." [3] He says the producers wanted a sequence where the criminals rob a race track but he felt that had been done in The Killing (1956), so he filmed it taking place off screen. According to Losey, Johnny Bannion was modelled on real-life Soho gangster Albert Dimes, whom Baker was acquainted with. [4] Frank Saffron, the prison mob boss, was patterned after Charles Sabini.

The film was the debut for several of its actors, including Murray Melvin, Roy Dotrice, Neil McCarthy and Derek Francis.


According to Losey the film was a commercial success. He said the film was banned in Ireland because so many of the prisoners were Irish Catholics. [3]

The film was reportedly very successful in Paris. [2]

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  1. Caute, David (1994). Joseph Losey. Oxford University Press. p. 139.
  2. 1 2 EUGENE ARCHER (15 March 1964). "EXPATRIATE RETRACES HIS STEPS: Joseph Losey Changes Direction With His British 'Servant'". New York Times. p. X9.
  3. 1 2 "FILM CRAFT: Joseph Losey talks to Peter Lennon". The Guardian. London. 9 July 1962. p. 5.
  4. "BFI Screenonline: Criminal, The (1960)". Retrieved 30 April 2023.